This brief was produced jointly with the Centre for Policy Research in India and co-drafted with Climate Legal, based in South Africa. 

In recent years, national climate governance instruments have been appearing rapidly around the world. However, these developments have rarely been discussed in terms of the requirements of climate responses in different political contexts. This brief addresses the role and potential of domestic climate law in responding to climate change with a view to establishing a set of approaches that can reconcile existing views and adapt to various governance needs.

Key messages for law and policymakers

  • The complexities of climate governance require a far-reaching reorientation of mainstream governance approaches. But there is great variation in traditions of governance, economic circumstances and legal culture around the world.
  • The starting point of a serious response to the climate crisis is to understand the governance demands of climate change and needs of the specific country. The authors identify nine governance functions that are essential for any state to consider when preparing to meet the challenge of climate change (see below).
  • In designing climate laws that satisfy climate governance functions, law and policymakers must consider that not all functions will need to be addressed through a new statutory instrument and not all functions are equally relevant and applicable in every context.
  • The governance instrument most fit to address un- or partially-met climate governance functions will also vary according to the socio-historical and political context of a country. Viable approaches include the layering of policies, executive action, dispersed amendments of laws, constitutional amendments, setting up of executive commissions or agencies, framework laws, and a mix of all or some of the above.

Climate governance functions

  1. Narrative and high-level direction-setting: A well-constructed narrative that frames climate change objectives to suit domestic contexts can focus political attention.
  2. Knowledge and expert advice: Strategic climate policymaking needs to be informed by a constantly evolving understanding of climate change threats and solutions.
  3. Strategy articulation: The large-scale and long-lasting transformations demanded by climate change require strategies for stable and enduring pathways.
  4. Integration: Climate governance must establish mechanisms for upgrading the existing regulatory architecture to ensure it enables the achievement of climate objectives.
  5. Mainstreaming: This refers to the gradual process of bringing climate considerations into the workings of traditionally nonenvironmental sectors.
  6. Coordination: Climate change requires an all-of-government response to be effective.
  7. Stakeholder engagement and alignment: A participative process of change strengthens the allegiance to and credibility of climate policies and actions.
  8. Finance mobilisation and channelling: This is essential to most aspects of climate governance, from building adaptation infrastructure to fostering green growth. The ability to mobilise investment often depends on other governance functions.
  9. Oversight, accountability and enforcement: A robust regime of oversight needs to be in place to close the gap between design and implementation.
Keep in touch with the Grantham Research Institute at LSE
Sign up to our newsletters and get the latest analysis, research, commentary and details of upcoming events.